Craft Gunmaking, No compromises, No corners cut, EVER

Friday, April 14, 2023

Musings on "Patina"

 Why is "patina" so valued by collectors (of just about anything)?  Patina, by definition, is oxidation.  What it is NOT, is "original finish".  It is what happens after the original finish has expired, either through wear, neglect or exposure to the elements (usually a combination of those).  No Winchester, Parker, Colt, or what have you, ever left the factory totally brown (or grey).  It is damage, period.  So why is it so valued?  Most of the arguments in favor of "preserving" patina that I hear are based in emotion, rather than logic.  Collectors will wax poetic (or try) about how the patina is a part of the gun's "history", how every scratch, dent or patch of rust is part of some "story" (which the new owner's imagination will create) and how remedying these maladies might somehow "erase those memories".  The problem with that entirely fanciful notion is this: the gun is a tool, it has no memory, no stories to tell.  It is inanimate.  The ability to become emotionally attached to the effects of someone else's experiences (in this instance, a worn, brown gun) is truly baffling to me.  Now, if the gun in question was owned from new (or nearly so), and all of that patina was acquired by the owner, the emotional imperative for keeping it as-is would be much more valid.  That is rarely the case though.  More common is the acquisition of some completely brown gun, followed by the entirely imagined scenarios that led to its current condition, then showing it off proudly, usually with comments such as, "If only this gun could talk" or, "Imagine the stories this gun could tell".  Well, it can't talk because it's a tool, a machine.  If it could, it might well tell horrific tales of abuse, neglect and the machinations of half-assed gunsmiths.  The mention of restoring (correctly) the gun to it's actual, factory-new condition is met with the disbelief that such a thought could even enter one's mind.  The patina is sacred, it's "original".  But it's  not, because as stated above, none of these guns left their manufacturer bruised and brown.  I imagine that if most of these people were car shopping, and the seller showed them a car with dull, oxidized paint, pitted chrome, rust and a few minor dents, they probably wouldn't look at it as "patina".  Speaking of cars, it's interesting that car collectors wouldn't have a second thought regarding the correct restoration of a particular automobile but gun collectors (or watch collectors, or whatever else) are extremely hesitant in that regard, to say the least.  The fact that there are so few that can actually do a factory-correct restoration on a gun (any gun) would be a valid reason for that hesitancy, if not for the fact that there are almost as few people that can actually discern a factory-correct restoration.  Perhaps it's due to the fact that the word restoration has, like gender, become "fluid" in its definition, and those actually interested in having it done fear what the result might be.  Maybe the gun's value, or its intended use, do not warrant a restoration.  That's fine, but perhaps it would be better to simply accept the gun as it is, rather than attempt to imbue its "patina" with mystical (and imaginary) attributes.